Opinion: Five disturbing habits of the Oregon legislature

Doug Olson

Olson, who retired from the accommodation industry in 2016, previously worked for the Washington County government and was elected to local boards. He lives in Pacific City.

The Oregon legislature will reach constitutional closure at the end of June. For some, it takes longer to move a program forward. For others, the end cannot come soon enough.

But these are not partisan tendencies. These are five things our legislature does in every session that should be very disturbing to Oregonians, even if you have no interest in politics.

First, while most bills list the names of their legislative sponsors, some bills only show a legislative committee as the sponsor. Often this is because the bill is too controversial and the real author is reluctant to include their name. It is political cowardice. Bills without a named sponsor should be given extra diligence or perhaps rejected in full.

Second, many bills are passed with an emergency clause attached. This means that the law comes into force immediately after the governor signs it. The emergency clause limits the ability of citizens to use the referendum process to send a controversial law to the people for a vote, thereby removing powerful control over bad public policy. Beware of bills and laws with an emergency clause attached when there is no real emergency – such as a forest fire, flood, or similar event requiring immediate attention.

Third, some invoices for the last days of a session become “Christmas tree” invoices. It is the term used to describe a bill loaded with extras to gain the support of more lawmakers in order to pass. For example, a legislator undecided on a particular bill may be persuaded to vote in favor if there is an added benefit to his constituency. Very quickly the proposed bill becomes a Christmas tree with something for everyone. What was likely a marginal improvement in Oregon public policy is becoming law at additional cost to taxpayers.

Fourth, lawmakers will revive certain bills through a process called “gut and stuff”. This is where a bill goes through the process and stays alive towards the end of the session, but is either drastically changed or replaced entirely by the wording of another bill, that it is almost unrecognizable. of its original writing. So bills that appeared to be dead earlier in the session can still be revived at the end. This happens in almost all legislative sessions.

Finally, another ugly feature of the closing days of a legislative session is the limited time given to lawmakers to consider and vote on a bill. In recent weeks, lawmakers may only get an hour’s notice that a bill will be put to a vote in the House or Senate. It is simply not enough time for lawmakers and certainly not the public to respond to the call for a vote.

Oregon has been a national leader in many areas over the years, pioneering forward-thinking legislation such as the Bottle Bill, the Beach Bill, and our land use laws. These resulted from a transparent process that hosted a bipartisan partnership, after vigorous debate and public input. The legislation we see today undermines this tradition. We can and must do better.

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